Monday, October 12, 2015

Dabbling with Dowsing

I've been busy lately, so this month will be a short post about an informal experiment I did.

According to Wikipedia, dowsing is defined as: "a type of divination employed in attempts to locate ground water, buried metals or ores, gemstones, oil, gravesites, and many other objects and materials without the use of scientific apparatus. Dowsing is considered a pseudoscience, and there is no scientific evidence that it is any more effective than random chance."  I have both read about and personally observed some ghost hunting groups using dowsing during their paranormal investigations.  Because I've learned about priming and the ideomotor effect many years ago, I'm doubtful that they are tuning into anything otherworldly.  But my friend Wes, who is a believer in the paranormal, claims dowsing has given him some interesting results.  He is mindful not to call the results evidence, because he understands how subjective they are.  One of the reasons he believes so strongly in it is that dowsing has helped him recover lost items. I recalled reading about how hypnotherapy can help people find things they have misplaced.  So I contacted a retired professional hypnotherapist acquaintance of mine who confirmed that regression has been used, with good results, with helping patients find lost items.  What this suggests to me is that we have the information stored away in our subconscious and we just need to a means to unlock it.  Wes's wife (who is one of my dearest friends) gave me a set of dowsing rods to try for myself.  I believe isn't fair to knock something until I try it, so I decided to experiment with them.

Before I get into that, I'd like to discuss why I had doubts that dowsing is an authentic method of spirit communication going into this.  Studies have shown that some typical methods of divination, including use of dowsing rods, spirit boards, using pendulums, etc. are nothing more than the ideomotor affect.  Simply put, suggestion and expectation can subconsciously influence our muscular movement.  This means the person doing the dowsing may be 100% honest and sincere, but unaware how their beliefs and preferences are likely causing the rods to move instead of a supernatural force.  There have been scientific experiments testing the claims of dowsers.   In the chapter titled, "Put Up or Shut Up" in James Randi's book Flim Flam, he explains how he offered a $10,000 reward for dowsers (and other people making supernatural claims) who could prove their supposed paranormal abilities under strictly controlled experiments.  He talks in detail about the conditions and the results of the dowsing tests conducted.  None of the dowsers were successful.  (By the way, the reward is now $1,000,000 as of yet, nobody has managed to collect it.)
Typical of dowsing rods I've seen at paranormal conventions, for sale on Amazon

My friend Wes told me his dowsing rods don't respond to his questions when he holds them, but they will whenever his wife does.  He speculates it is because she is more "open" to the energies since she is a receptive person, meaning, one of those people everyone likes.  He admits he can sometimes be, in his own words, a dick.  I myself am not a belle of the ball type of gal, so to test this claim, I asked my laid-back, likable husband to also participate in my experiment. He is a little more open to dowsing, as he told me he has known farmers in our area who used "water witches" for wells.  But I don't find that validates anything, since we live in a fairly soggy region, surrounded by lakes, streams, ponds, rivers, swamps, etc.   Since one of the main reasons my friend is convinced dowsing works is because he was able to find things they've lost with it, I decided to try the dowsing rods for this purpose.  I have misplaced one of my photo albums and would like very much to find it.

So I was careful to follow what Wes briefly taught me about using the rods.  I "grounded" them by touching them to the ground before I asked if I had spirit guides to show me "yes" by crossing the rods.  I got nothing - they didn't move.  I asked my own higher self (what I consider my subconscious) the same question and again the rods didn't move.  I grounded the rods again before I asked, "Is my lost photo album in this house?"  Again, no movement of the rods.  This continued with my list of questions:
"Is my lost photo album in the basement?"
"Is my lost photo album in the master bedroom?"
"Is my lost photo album in the spare bedroom?"
"Is my lost photo album in the den?"
"Is my lost photo album in the office?"
"Is my lost photo album in the living room?"
"Is my lost photo album not in the house?"

I got nothing; the rods did not move for me.  So I handed them to my husband, who grounded them before I asked to show me "yes" by crossing the rods.  The rods crossed.  But my husbands hands weren't level to the floor, so we started over.  He grounded them, kept his hands level and I asked again to cross them for a "yes".  They crossed again.  So I started my questions:
"Is my lost photo album in this house?"  They didn't move.  So I skipped to the last question: "Is my lost photo album not in the house?" The rods crossed.  I didn't like that answer, so I continued with my list.  The rods crossed for "yes" for the master bedroom.  So I asked if the album was under the bed in the master bedroom.  They crossed again.  I asked if it was in the closet in the master bedroom.  Again, they crossed.  (For the record, the bed is NOT in the closet.)  I asked if it was in the spare room and they crossed.  At this point, my husband said they're just saying yes to everything.  So I decided to move on to the next phase.  I had my husband put a sleep mask over his eyes and wear headphones with music playing, so he couldn't see or hear what I asked.  I switched the order of the questions and added a couple of non-relevant questions.  After, I found the results to be interesting:  the rods never moved at all for any of the questions, including the request to cross for yes.  My husband was surprised to learn they never moved this time around.  To me, this supports the idea that a subject holding the rods can be primed by the questions,  affecting the movement of the rods.

While my experiment was far from scientific, in my opinion, it does support the evidence that dowsing rods are more likely influenced by the dowser than by any supernatural forces.  I was really hoping to tap into something that would help me find my missing album, but for now, it remains lost.

Image from Wikipedia

James Randi, Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns and other Delusions
Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY, 1982